Labor Day is traditionally the unofficial end of summer. Many people see
it as an opportunity to shop the sales or watch a football or baseball
game, but others look forward to kicking back and enjoying some time with
family and friends at the park, the beach or in their own backyard. When
most Americans plan a warm weather get together, the first thing they
think of is food.
“We often consider Labor Day to be summer’s last hurrah,”
observed registered dietitian Kimberlee Alvari, director of Food and Nutrition
Clinical Services at Washington Hospital. “So, we want to relax
and enjoy ourselves without a lot of rules and restrictions. But, there
are still a few things you should do to take care of yourself and feel
good throughout the day.”
Here are Alvari’s top five recommendations:
It’s likely to be hot this Labor Day, so drink plenty of water,
infused iced teas or other low calorie, non-alcoholic beverages, especially
when you are outdoors.
“One of the biggest offenders on a holiday like Labor Day is alcohol,”
she said. “Wine, beer and cocktails contribute calories that can
add up very quickly while contributing zero nutrition to your diet.”
She suggested trying “mocktails” or a good light beer and limiting
wine drinking to moderate amounts. A 5 ounce glass of wine is 120 calories,
and the same amount of light beer is about 100 calories.
Contribute to the table.
If you are invited to a gathering, offer to bring one or more dishes to
share. That’s your chance to add something healthy, like fruit salad,
to the menu. And, you’ll always know there will be healthy food
available, even if everyone else brings chips and dips.
Roasted Corn & Edamame Salad and Light & Fresh Potato Salad are
two nutritious and delicious salad recipes that have been popular at community
events sponsored by Washington Hospital, as well as in the Hospital’s
Chances are, if you are hosting a Labor Day meal, it will include something
from the grill. For a main dish, consider having something on a stick
that includes local produce, both fruits and vegetables, along with a
small amount of lean meat.
“Kabobs can take a little more time to prepare, but you can do it
ahead, so you’ll be able to spend more time with your guests,”
advised Alvari. “Grilled fruits and vegetables are delicious because
they sweeten up as they cook and the flavors can be wonderful.”
Small pieces of skinless, boneless chicken are always a good choice for
grilled kabobs. The meat cooks fast so you don’t have to worry as
much that it is at a safe temperature. You can also consider partially
microwaving the chicken first to get the internal cooking started and
then finish off on the grill.
- Marinate the kabobs before cooking.
- Serve light dipping sauces for your guests to enjoy with the finished kabobs.
- Grill a basket of fresh veggies.
Top it off with smart treats.
If you want something sweet to round out your Labor Day meal, stay away
from the heavier desserts and consider fruit. Strawberries are a great
late summer option.
“One cup of strawberries—sweet enough so they require no sugar—are
delicious and beautiful with a couple of tablespoons of whipped cream,
and that’s only about 100 calories,” stated Alvari. “Or,
the last of this season’s stone fruit is still available, so think
about grilled peaches sprinkled with a small amount of brown sugar. They
look beautiful, and you can add a little bit of low fat vanilla ice cream
for extra flavor and sweetness.”
Another fun option is root beer floats with diet root beer and reduced-fat
vanilla ice cream. They are festive and total around 120 calories each,
if you add just one scoop of ice cream.
Add activities to the menu.
Include physical activity or active games in your Labor Day celebration.
That way, you can get some exercise while you enjoy the party. Swimming,
playing Frisbees and other outdoor games is fun and will get everyone moving.
A last piece of safety advice from Alvari: With outdoor meals, it’s
as important as ever to keep food safe. Don’t cross-contaminate
raw meats with other foods by using the same plates, utensils or containers
without washing them between uses.
Finally, stay mindful about the temperature of your food. Check the internal
temperature of grilled meat with a thermometer, and keep cool food like
salads cold by covering and placing them on ice in a cooler when not being served.
“Food can stay outside safely for up to two hours,” said Alvari.
“However, if the day is above 90 degrees, the safety of the food
only lasts for about an hour.”
Learn more For more information and ideas on healthy picnicking and barbequing,
go online to www.cookinglight.com. To find out more about Food and Nutritional
Services at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com.